Reports linking Love to Bulls further increase offseason expectations

Reports linking Love to Bulls further increase offseason expectations

May 18, 2014, 2:30 pm
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Multiple reports about Kevin Love's desire to leave Minnesota don't come as a surprise, given the All-Star power forward's comments hinting at his unhappiness about the Timberwolves' struggles, as the team hasn't reached the playoffs in his six NBA seasons. Nor is it a shock that Chicago is reportedly a destination that intrigues him, since he's been friends with former league MVP Derrick Rose from their high school days on the AAU and camp circuit--the two stars also work out together most summers in California, along with Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook and other players--and the Bulls are a team that would be a championship contender with Love, at least on paper.

But while the Bulls will certainly explore the feasibility of acquiring Love via trade this offseason, they will face stiff competition, if the Timberwolves indeed opt to deal him prior to the UCLA product hitting free agency next summer.

Golden State was named as another preferred destination and like the Bulls, the inclusion of the Warriors' own high-priced power forward--David Lee, who has two more years on his contract; Carlos Boozer, entering the final year of his deal, is essentially an expiring contract for the Bulls to dangle in any potential negotiation--to facilitate a swap. The Bulls, unlike the Warriors, also have assets in the form of two mid-first-round draft picks, as well as some combination of swingman Jimmy Butler, sixth man Taj Gibson and perhaps even the rights to 2011 first-rounder Nikola Mirotic, who plays in the Euroleague title game Sunday.

But it's the worst-kept "secret" in the league that Love's preference has always been to return to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers, the odds-on favorite to sign him if he reaches free agency in the summer of 2015. Although the Lakers can't offer Minnesota the same quality of players as the two aforementioned suitors, depending on how things play out Tuesday, when the NBA's draft lottery order is determined, they could have a high selection in next month's draft, allowing the Timberwolves to jump start the rebuilding process.

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New York is seen as another option for Love in free agency next summer, though the Knicks would have a hard time making an appealing trade offer at the present time.

Of course, if the Timberwolves do elect to trade Love rather than try to convince him to stay in Minnesota--one of the reasons it's taken some time to find a new head coach to replace the retired Rick Adelman is reportedly prospective candidates' being unsure about Love's future with the franchise--they don't have to send him to one of his preferred destinations. Boston, equipped with a high draft choice, is seen as an option, as the Celtics play in the opposite conference and the two teams have history with high-profile trades, going back to the Kevin Garnett deal in 2007. Phoenix is another team that could reportedly get in the fray, as the Suns have multiple 2014 first-round picks, solid young role players to include in a deal and could intrigue Love as a team on the upswing, though like any club he's potentially traded to, he's under no obligation to re-sign with them (he's eligible for a contract extension this summer, though all indications are that he won't enter one with Minnesota), something that an organization would undoubtedly have to receive a firm answer about before pulling the trigger.

In any case, the fact that Love has been linked to the Bulls is a reminder that this offseason isn't only about the pursuit of Carmelo Anthony. The franchise has a number of paths it could follow to upgrade the roster and not acquiring Anthony, which isn't a sure thing, won't make the summer a failure.

As far as preference and fit, Love's game hypothetically blends much better with a healthy Rose, as the dominant rebounder is also an excellent three-point shooter and like All-Star center Joakim Noah, a terrific passer. While he isn't much of a defender (neither is Anthony), Love's strengths far outweigh his weaknesses and in teaming up with Rose, the weight of being a No. 1 option would be taken off his shoulders and judging his track record in Minnesota--even considering injuries, the strength of the Western Conference and the Timberwolves not always surrounding him with complementary talent throughout the course of his career--it would seem to be an ideal scenario for both parties, especially when taking into account Anthony's ball-stopping reputation, the potential offensive spacing issues and his advanced age moving forward.

But the Bulls won't look a gift horse in the mouth and short of trading Rose or Noah, if there's any indication that Anthony, particularly given the fragile state of the Knicks in the wake of new team president Phil Jackson stunningly being spurned by former player Steve Kerr in his coaching search last week and next season already looking like another campaign in which being a contender isn't a reasonable goal, is leaning toward coming to Chicago, the front office will certainly pounce on that opportunity. However, if inquiries to the Timberwolves yield some hope that Love could be traded to the Bulls, that's an avenue they surely won't hesitate to explore.

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Neither saga appears to be drawing to an end anytime soon and though it smacks a bit of 2010, when the chase of superstars like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and others, only resulted in Carlos Boozer, the fact that the Bulls are in the mix from the outset is a good sign. As always, there's nothing wrong with being optimistic, just as long as understanding that if Love or Anthony isn't wearing a Bulls uniform next season, it isn't the end of the world.

But if both stars are playing elsewhere, even Rose's second comeback might not be enough to placate fans' expectations of a major splash this summer, regardless of the good-faith effort put into the process.